Just Two Shabbats and Messiah will come


Just Two Shabboses


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The Day the Messiah Almost Touched Down

By Ted Roberts

You know, there’s a Midrash - a rabbinical tale, that says the Almighty will send his Messiah when every Jew in the world faithfully observes Shabbos two Saturdays in a row. And once, long ago it is said, observance was perfect the first Saturday. But on the second Saturday an owner of an apple orchard in a remote Hungarian valley did not get the word. Somehow the importance of total abstinence from labor did not reach his mind and heart. Consequently on That fateful second Saturday he rode his donkey out to his apple orchard and promptly filled his bushel basket. The world mourned. Again, those apples! Always an apple. Satan smiled and Elijah wept, they say.

Only two Shabboses. What a felicitous bargain: only two days of obedience to the mitzvah, then hunger, pain and injustice, chased by the Moshiach, flee G-d’s world. “We must ignite a worldwide campaign,” said the Rabbis. “The word must go out of Zion!” So, they summoned a great convocation of Jewish leaders. The entire flock, all four branches of Judaism, plus those loose lambs that had strayed into alien meadows. They gathered together. The pious and profane, the wise and ignorant, believers and nonbelievers. The Rabbis elaborated ecstatically on the prize that will be ours. A world crowned with justice.

So, the word went out of Zion. A total range of communication techniques from messengers and skywriting to internet, TV, phone and radio are used to send the word; two perfect days of Shabbos obedience. Special rabbinical committees are formed to search out the nooks and crannies of the world. No one must be missed. The word must go out to all.

But like the telephone committee chairman says, there’s always someone who doesn’t get the word. And in a crowded Jewish slum in Cracow - behind a butcher shop lived a mother and child. The mother was sick. Too sick to move from her straw mattress. Her only attendant, her 14 year old daughter. They were quarantined. And in isolation, the young girl tended to her mother. The butcher, like most of his kind, balanced an occasional thumb on the scales with bursts of off-duty generosity. Realizing the plight of this unfortunate family, he helped with a handful of trimmings; bones for soup, and sometimes chicken schmalz.

When the Head Rabbinical spokesman passed through that quarter and saw the “Quarantine” sign on the door, he told the butcher, “let those people know - this is THE SHABBOS - that second one. They must not violate it. If there are no Shabbos transgressions, inform the child that her mother will heal. She will no longer be confined to this squalid ghetto and she can work and make a decent living. Maybe even buy a nice dress, wash the tears from her eyes and marry the Head Rabbi of Linz. Dreams will come true when the Mosiach rules. Tell her” - said the Rabbinic messenger.

The butcher, though a righteous man, was fearful of infection. So he only posted a note on the shack behind the store. The wind did the rest of the dirty work when it blew the note into the gutter full of waste water, which played it’s part in the drama by carrying the note into the Neva River that lay waiting at the end of the street.

The fateful Saturday came and there was a hush over the world. Inactivity ruled. Most Jews stayed in bed. That was the only way to be perfectly safe. The roads were deserted. Who would mount a horse, a carriage, a cart on this day. Who would risk a violation?

And all stores were shuttered and barred; with a sign tacked to the door. No business today. It is Shabbos of all Shabbos. Shabbos Godol.

But behind the butcher shop, the unknowing sick woman stirred on her pallet. “I am hungry, my child - please heat me a small bowl of the bone marrow soup that the butcher gave us.”

The little girl stepped to the hearth where a meager stack of kindling awaited her match. She picked up a match.

The child and her mother, the room, the match, was center stage. The world watched. All humanity; past, present, and future were in the room behind the butcher shop awaiting the decision of a 14 year old child. The hum of heaven and earth ceased.

But halfway to the fireplace she stopped. “Mama,” she said. “It is the Shabbos - we should not light the fire. I’ll bring you a piece of bread with schmaltz that the butcher gave me.”

“A double Mitzvah,” intoned the heavenly hosts. She not only honored the Shabbos, but she was unaware that it was the Shabbos Godol. “The heart that sings without the Psalmbook will be honored over all,” murmured the celestial observers.

So why didn’t HE come, you say. Because far, far away - 10,000 miles from that sick bed - a merchant in Buenos Aires did a thriving business that Sabbath day in second-hand clothing. The shepherds guarded the wrong lamb.

The Mosiach was all dressed up, so to speak, with no place to go.

But the offer, say our Rabbis, still remains upon the table. And it is rumored that sometimes before the close of the century, once again the word will go out from Zion. And this time, they’ll direct an eagle eye on Buenos Aires.

Ted Roberts kown as "The Scribbler on the Roof" Website: www.wonderwordworks.com and Blogsite: www.scribblerontheroof.typepad.com


from the December 2005 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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